Tasmanian sport needs media support

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By Consultant Ned Worledge 

The Tasmanian media wear many hats, from educator to a vehicle for human kindness. But perhaps the media’s ability to influence the public agenda and public perceptions is possibly the most powerful hat of all on the rack.

In an increasing digital age, the shift towards more localised news coverage has only increased the influence of media commentary as respective outlet’s resources are looking more closely at their immediate society.

The survival of local newspapers, and to a slightly lesser extent television news, in the digital age relies on two key elements; the stories impact on, or relevance to the local community and exclusivity.

The principal behind this is beautifully simple yet effective. Impact and proximity are two highly emotive news values while being the only outlet with the story makes the story unique and shifts eyes towards the outlet with the story in order for it to be viewed.

Recently I was fortunate enough to listen to the editors of Tasmania’s three newspapers, Mark Baker (Examiner and Advocate) and Matt Deighton (The Mercury) speak about this very topic and explain the ways in which their respective newspapers have adapted to the changing media landscape.

Upon reflection, there was one further question I wish I had asked; there has been an obvious shift towards a focus on local issues throughout general news, however the sports pages are still highly focused on coverage of national competitions, which primarily do not involve Tasmanian teams.

For example, for years, Tasmanian media have continued to fight a losing battle to have a Tasmanian AFL team, yet local football coverage is drowned in a sea of extensive, glossy AFL coverage. Granted there is an argument around consumer driven products and I’m not for a second suggesting dropping AFL, NRL or A-League coverage.

But with local sports such as the Tasmanian State League struggling to attract crowds, is it any wonder when, in a randomly selected local newspaper from the past two weeks, there were only three local sports stories in the 15 pages of sport.

Numerous academic studies have shown a sport’s media coverage and the participation rates for that sport are in direct correlation.

A cultural shift in the way Tasmanian media covers local sport will not only increase participation but is also highly likely to increase interest in local sporting competitions.

In particular, while we cling to the pipedream of a Tasmanian AFL team, there is a real possibility of a Tasmanian women’s AFL team and W-League being established in the next few years and an increase in the coverage of women’s sport is only likely to lead to a stronger following and participation in women’s sport, credibly establishing Tasmania’s case for a team in the respective competitions.

If the success of the Hobart Hurricanes women’s side has shown anything it’s that a Tasmanian based women’s sports team can be highly competitive on the national stage.

However in order for Tasmanian teams to continually be successful, we must build strong participation rates and breakdown perceptions around male and female sports, or one football code being for one part of the community more than another.

This starts with increased media coverage of local competitions and the people involved to build engagement, interest and an appetite for local sport.

A strong Tasmanian sporting landscape needs strong coverage of local sport.

Let me finish by saying, I speak very generally when referring to ‘Tasmanian media’. A number of media outlets dedicate numerous articles or airtime to local sport stories, but more can be done.

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